I’m very saddened by the state of affairs in Spain; and Madrid is having the worst of it. The focus here is largely on the domestic situation, and that’s quite understandable, but let’s not lose sight of what’s happening elsewhere – partly as a warning to the idiots who don’t seem to realise how bad this could get, again, and partly just out of general humanity. Spain lost 239 precious lives to this horrible virus last Thursday, and people in parts of Madrid are now forbidden to leave their own districts. The US, India, Brazil, Argentina … it’s horrendous there too. But I’m thinking about Spain just now.
Did Madrid save my life? Well, sort of! In 2013, I had a very severe bout of anxiety and depression, and I was so tensed up that I was in severe pain and I could hardly move my arms. I’d had tests, scans, painkillers and physiotherapy, and tried moving all the office furniture around to help the “ergonomics”, but none of it worked because it was mostly anxiety tension. I only really got that during a Champions League match between United and Real Madrid. It’s quite a well-known match – Nani was controversially sent off, and we conceded two goals after that, and lost. And my right arm, which I’d hardly been able to move all day – I could hardly write or type, it was that bad – eased up, because I was so caught up in the football that, despite being a stressful match, things somehow relaxed. Trapped nerves and all the other things which had been suggested don’t magically resolve themselves because of bad refereeing decisions. After that, I rang in sick, and then I went to see the doctor.
Then, four months later, I went to Madrid. Nothing to do with the match – I’d booked it months earlier. But, for a long time, I’d thought I wouldn’t be able to go, and being able to go after all was such a wonderful boost. I was so excited to be there that I made the rep who met me at the airport look at all the photos of Rafa on my phone. He must have thought I was mad. However, I’m not sure I’d have got through it if it the worst of it hadn’t coincided with the clay court season, and I hadn’t had Rafa to focus on. Maybe I should have put “How Madrid and a Mallorcan saved my life”. I’m afraid that things aren’t going very well in Mallorca either, and that saddens and worries me too. But Madrid seems to be having the worst of it.
I haven’t got the same romantic feeling for Madrid that I’ve got for some European cities. Venice. St Petersburg. Prague. For a kick off, Mancunians tend to identify with Barcelona. We love the fact that the Catalans are always taking on what can sometimes seem like a rather overbearing capital city! And I don’t think we tend to get romantic over Spain in general in the way that we do over Italy. Well, OK, I cried buckets when the Spanish flag went up after the 2008 men’s singles Olympic tennis final, and I’ve got very worked up over Spanish Davis Cup matches, but that’s Rafa, not Spain in general 🙂 .
All that Black Legend stuff. Then, after the Napoleonic Wars, Spain was pretty much isolated from international affairs for decades. And, when it became a major tourist destination, it was more a sun and sand thing than a cultural thing – although, obviously, there are many wonderful places to visit to experience the cultures of the different parts of Spain. I’ve been to some of them. I want to go to many more. But I do love Spain. And I do love the city of Madrid. And it’s heartbreaking to see any city suffering like this.
Parts of France aren’t far behind. Bordeaux and Marseille seem to be particularly bad. It’s all over. Even places like the Czech Republic, which didn’t do too badly in the spring, are badly affected. Israel’s back in lockdown. And, as we know, the situation here is deteriorating rapidly – and we could do with a lot more compassion and a lot more sense of community, and a lot less nastiness and points-scoring. But spare a few thoughts today for Madrid, and especially for the people who aren’t even going to be able to leave their own districts and say that they feel as if they’re being shut up in ghettos. And reflect on the fact that we’re all in this together.